Alert! Time Travelling Heroine Surrounded By Pretty Boys!

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Meiji Tokyo Renka Episode 1 Review

I feel like we’ve seen this all before. Meet a girl in the modern world, contrive some reason, or no reason, and suddenly poof she’s in a historical setting with a vaguely supernatural twist. Okay, I’m getting a distinct Sengoku Night Blood kind of vibe from this one and that isn’t necessarily a favourable comparison.

Meiji Tokyo Renka Episode 1 Mei

However, rather than comparing it to another show that has a similar premise and is also based on a game, let’s look at the first episode of Meiji Tokyo Renka.

We meet Mei, our heroine, in the modern world and quickly establish she’s a loner because she can see ghosts and as a kid she didn’t realise other people couldn’t and she got a reputation as a weirdo. It is a generic enough back story but surprisingly quickly established and the heroine seems to actually have a reasonably positive outlook despite her loner status.

Meiji Tokyo Renka Episode 1 Magician

Soon she meets a magician who puts her in a box and poof she’s transported into the past. This is where the anime kind of lost me a bit (though I’ll admit I wasn’t really buying in even from the start). Straight away she meets two of the pretty boys from the opening and we establish that her memory is a little messed up. While she remembers things like her headphones and names of certain historical figures, she needed to be told her own name by what I assume was the fox spirit.

What little personality heroine may have had quickly evaporates into the usual look at everything a bit blankly and answer yes to a lot of stuff. Oh right, I forgot our heroine likes roast beef. Does that count as a personality trait?

Maiji Tokyo Renka Episode 1 Mei

I didn’t actually hate this one, but past experience with this set up has convinced me not to have particularly high hopes. I’ll keep watching because even when these sorts of stories play out exactly as expected they are watchable but again, I don’t have much in the way of an expectation that this will be anything more than brightly coloured filler.

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DANCE IN THE LIGHT (MEIJI TOKYO RENKA – YUMIHARI NO SERENADE THEME SONG)
DANCE IN THE LIGHT (MEIJI TOKYO RENKA - YUMIHARI NO SERENADE THEME SONG)

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Give In To Your Hate – Embrace The Darkness

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode Review Title Image

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 11 Review

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary has been heading for a tragic end for awhile and right now it is kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The Empress is in a state of emotional turmoil after sentencing Ning to water torture last week (and Ning has fully gone off the deep end after experiencing said water torture). All this has done is emboldened the Empress’ enemies and they are now moving far more openly against her.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 11 the Empress

Meanwhile, Zhao has thrown himself fully into his work. Last week though I made the comment that he was doing nothing about Ning and apparently that is untrue. He’s been sending petitions to the Empress to receive her pardon. Petitions the Empress hasn’t been reading. Way to be a great friend and all. Still, there’s a massive construct to complete before the series end because if it doesn’t even get finished it will be the sub-plot that’s gone nowhere and I’d have to wonder what the point was.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 11 Zhao

Also meanwhile, Yin has finally accepted joining the rebel family and now has more brothers and sisters. She’s still totally brooding about Ning though. Good thing this anime isn’t in to making us wait as Ning returns, insane and powered up, ready to fight her sister to the death.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 11 Ning fights Yin

At this point the battle between the rebels and the empire is almost superfluous to the central characters’ personal dramas. One thing is for sure, Ning has definitely misplaced all of her anger onto her sister and it doesn’t look like she’s coming back from that any time soon.

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Great Heights and Great Falls: It All Comes With Ambition

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode Review Title Image

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episodes 8 – 10 Review

Zhao’s character has been a curiosity from the beginning given despite being enslaved he ultimately chose to pursue power within the empire after it was offered to him. His lack of understanding of Yin’s disgust with the idea of serving an empire that wiped out their village was odd to say the least. See, I’d get his character if he knew the empire was evil but had decided that it was worth siding with them for the opportunity to have power. But instead, he’d kind of convinced himself that those getting wiped out deserved it because they were weak and the empire was right all along. It was a little bit odd.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 8 Zhao and Ning

However, despite the Empress’ favour, or perhaps because of it, Zhao wasn’t in the secure position he thought he’d established and these episodes bring that to the front loud and clear. As those plotting around the Empress seek to bring her down, it is only natural that Zhao’s weakness be exposed and Ning, who in episode 7 essentially ditched her sister for the chance to be with Zhao, became the lynch-pin that brought all of Zhao’s ambitions and prior achievements tumbling down.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 9 Cheng

To say that there are some uncomfortable moments in these episodes would be a bit of an understatement, and for once I’m not talking about the cringe worthy CG animation during fight sequences (though there is plenty of that as well). Seeing Cheng enraged that her toy has others he cares about and taking that anger out on Ning, who is without her arms and chained, is pretty horrific. As is Zhao’s decision after he’s been demoted four ranks and ordered to build his ultimate death machine to just suck it up and get on with it. Not one even vague thought that maybe he should use those secret passages Cheng showed off to him to maybe try and rescue Ning. It never even crosses his mind.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 10 Cheng punished Ning

However, the moment that really hits is the water torture. Not only do we get some horrible insight into what is going on in Ning’s mind while the drops of water continue to flow but we also see that Cheng is nearly self-destructing after inflicting the punishment. At least she didn’t delegate the task, which she was well within her rights to, but the previously composed child-ruler is clearly coming unhinged now. None of the three characters have come out of this scheme unscathed and Cheng’s enemies are delighted and becoming more open in their preparations to perhaps take her out.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 10 Ning

All of this is interspersed with cuts to the rebels, who for once weren’t the more interesting story. Instead we get some pretty ordinary action sequences and even after they unveil their new magic armour, it actually just makes the next fight sequence dull to watch. Yin is still a mopey character and while I kind of get her role in all of this, she wasn’t fun to watch and the absence of Ning really hurt her scenes as she no longer has anyone to bounce off of.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 8 Rebels

Still, with three episodes to go there’s quite a lot that can happen and my only real wish is that Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary does come to an end properly because leaving this story hanging will kind of hurt. I’ve really enjoyed the plot and the intrigues even if the animation and visuals haven’t quite been up to the same level of ambition.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Series Review: The Ugly Side of War

To be honest, I’m not super into realistic historical settings or period drama style anime so when I first started Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion, I wasn’t really expecting much. Still there’s definitely something about those first episodes that grab your attention and even though the show has its flaws, I’m still pretty happy with the watch through.

Review:

For people who watch a lot of seasonal anime there’s definitely a small problem of becoming a little fatigued with seeing similar set ups and plots play out over and over again. Particularly when you follow some genres more than others you definitely start to notice a saminess to your viewing so it isn’t surprising that when something comes along that gets your attention that isn’t something from your normal genre, there’s a novelty factor that comes from watching it that makes it pretty pleasant.

Angolmois Episode 10

And for me, that’s kind of how it was with Angolmois. Definitely not my usual kind of thing because I’m not a huge fan of period pieces, I don’t really like Samurai stories, and based on real events in history does little to really engage me. However, this anime was different enough and my watch list small enough this Summer that I decided to strap in and go for it. I don’t regret that choice but I’m kind of left on the fence about whether I really enjoyed it or whether it really was just the novelty of it that made it stand out (and for people who watch a lot of historical/samurai stories it is probably missing the novelty factor).

Ultimately, I think Angolmois is fine. There are some great moments along the way and some not so food moments. There’s some interesting characters that we learn little to nothing about. The plot is kept pretty straight forward with the Mongols invading the island and the local Japanese people trying to survive while not wanting to leave their land and the exiles who end up tasked with helping them (not that the exiles have all that much choice given leaving the island isn’t exactly an option for most of the anime).

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However, fine isn’t exactly a huge recommendation and to be honest, in a busier season I probably wouldn’t bother with this one. There are just too many strikes against it so that even those moments that were really fun and engaging end up mostly forgotten by the end.

Of course, the biggest hurdle with this one is the filter over every single scene. I’m thinking they are trying to make it look historical or something, but mostly it just serves as a distraction in the early episodes and more than that, it is hideous. Character faces end up blotchy, and when we get a panning shot and the filter doesn’t move it actually made me feel a little queasy during early episodes. Admittedly, by the time you get to the second half of the season, your eyes have finally just accepted it and mostly filter out the filter but occasionally a scene will bring it back into jarring focus reminding you just how ugly this anime really is.

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It doesn’t help that the majority of the characters are pretty ugly to look at as well even without the filter. Now I’m not saying that every anime character needs to be a pretty boy or whatever, but this cast is a motley collection of generally unattractive character designs and while it is likely a deliberate choice given the tone of the show, that doesn’t make it any more pleasant to look at.

Okay, I’m going to move away from the cosmetics and actually look at the characters now. Despite actually kind of enjoying the early episodes, other that Teruhi and Jinzaburou, and later Kano, none of the character names stuck. It took forever just to distinguish the different exiles as individual people and not just the ‘exiles’ and then we have the Japanese from the island and multiple Mongol armies all with characters that are thrown at us. It is overcrowded and impossible to learn anything of real note about anyone which is probably where the show stumbles hardest. It is really difficult to care about their amazing climactic battle where they linger on a death and you have to do a double take just to remind yourself whether you knew who that character was, and then you certainly don’t care.

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So realistically this show either needed more episodes so we could spend actual time with these characters and get to know them, or it just needed to narrow its focus right down onto the characters who mattered. Not choosing either option means we get a very superficial look at way too many characters, most of whom will die before the final credits roll.

Like most historical anime, the characters all have their honour and rules that they live by. They regularly spout platitudes about their honour or life or whatever before doing something either stupid or brave or whatever. But again, knowing so little about the character makes these moments feel very tagged on and given we know so little about them we can’t figure out how this particular choice feeds into a greater character because it just isn’t there.

Mongol11a

The Magistrate suffered horribly because he clearly had a code and clearly made some choices because of it, but we never had the time to learn enough about him to really understand what was driving him. By the time he died he just seemed like a silly man holding onto a handful of a sand as the wind tried to blow it away. The traitor from the exiles as well never had enough time for us to really understand why he made the choices he made and his character ended up feeling fairly shallow and inconsistent because of it and made his betrayal have very little impact emotionally even if it did drive the plot to its inevitable conclusion.

I really did look forward to this show most weeks and it isn’t as though it is a train wreck. It just comes up short in too many ways for me to really recommend it. Still, if you want a break from isekai, harem, high school, or the other standard anime types, this one might be a breath of fresh air… assuming of course slaughter and war work for you.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 12: Expected Ending and Little Impact

Oh no, he’s dead. We’re all going to die. Get revenge. Argh!

Kind of close to how this final episode of Angolmois ends up going but I guess I’ll give it a proper episode review before thinking about wrapping up this series.

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We might be on the brink of death and all hope might be loss, but there’s always time for a decontextualised flash back about a character we hadn’t heard of before in order to re-inspire Jinzaburou to try to get back to the surface of the water (even though realistically he had already well and truly drowned by the time this played out). There was nothing actually wrong with the flash back and as another piece of Jinzaburo’s character is was kind of welcome, but episode 12 and mid-battle is not really the place for it. Not to mention, I don’t care about the kid or the tree so the whole thing just emotionally fell flat here.

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On the island itself we essentially watch anyone left that we’ve spent any time with (not that I remember any of their names) getting killed off by the overwhelmingly stronger Mongol forces. I’m guessing some of these deaths were supposed to be touching but with little development of these characters plus the whole of episode 11 kind of doing the same thing, there is almost no impact to be felt and you are kind of just watching things play out and waiting for the curtain to fall.

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And fall it eventually does with Jinzaburou back on land and fighting against that one Mongol guy who was a bit of a jerk before (yeah, I don’t know their names either). And apparently he did kill the pirate guy off screen last week so I guess we won’t be seeing him again. They duel, and then Jinzaburou does this badass walk through the middle of the Mongols and they all just give ground but it doesn’t matter. Almost everyone is already dead and this fight barely rescues a handful. The Mongols are leaving regardless as this was never their true target.

As to Teruhi, she’s nearly strangled to death by Kano who apparently just wanted to hide the Princess (though she’s very lucky she didn’t actually kill her). When Teruhi awakens she sees everyone dead and despairs but then she comes across Jinzaburou and we get some totally inappropriately triumphant music to see us through to the end where the other survivors regroup (no sign of Kano so I guess things didn’t end so well after the Mongols pinned her to the ground).

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The episode ends with a statement that there’s some writing about exiles fighting on the island but nothing more. I”m guessing they just wanted to remind us this is fictional though has some historical basis. Not that any of that matters. I don’t regret watching this one this season, but its kind of run its course and I’m also kind of glad it is done. Full review coming soonish.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 11: If Warriors Die To Learn Who They Are, These Guys Are Getting A Great Education This Week

I’m reminded once again how much my mood affects how I take in what I watch. I’ve had one of those weeks. You know the kind where you wonder why you continue to get out of bed and I’ve had to come up with a reason each and every day to get me moving out the door to work. So when I finished this episode and had a very ‘meh’ impression I had to think long and hard about whether the episode really failed to deliver or whether I’d just become a little bit numb after everything else. The answer I came to was probably a bit of both.

Angolmois Episode 11 Teruhi
You and me both.

The inevitable fall of the castle came during episode 11. The castle we knew was too large with too few defenders. The castle that last episode was surrounded by an overly large Mongol army. The only real question was how many would die when the castle would fall and somehow they managed to make the answer much bigger than anticipated because despite each exile saying they were just going to kill a few Mongols and then leave, the majority of them hung around long enough to face their death, as did the vast majority of the islanders.

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I mentioned this on Twitter but I definitely feel this episode would have had far more impact if any of these characters had really been properly developed. I struggled even as I watched them die to remember their names or to summon up even a shred of care about their demise. And that kind of is a problem with this series. The events have been interesting and the conflict reasonably compelling but the cast never have been and now with the dramatic final moments playing out I’m failing to really get the emotional impact that these scenes deserve.

Mongol11c

There’s also a little bit of eye-roll worthiness as characters stay overly long to make a hopeless last stand and then just as they decide its time to go they get cut down. There’s only so many times you can repeat this sequence of people lingering just that fraction too long before you realise everyone on the mountain is pretty much stuffed.

Mongol11d

Still, with an episode to go, I guess we’re at a good point to finish the series. Most of the cast are already dead, the Mongols are swarming, and they just blew a main character off a cliff (though I assume since he landed in the ocean, and because we haven’t seen the scene from episode one, that he’ll survive that), so I guess this is climactic. I’m curious as to what the end will be and whether anyone will live, but at the same time I feel I’m just not very emotionally invested either way. Whether they live or die, I’m curious but not caught up in it.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 10: Things Are Going About As Well As You Would Expect

Angolmois Episode 10

Jinzaburo wastes no time in dealing with the betrayal from last week, we get a weird kind of romantic maybe sequence from the Princess, and then we have yet more Mongols moving in. Angolmois isn’t slowing down and it was great that they reminded us that everything that has happened has taken place over 5 days so far.

Angolmois Episode 10 Teruhi

On the surface this episode felt very piecemeal and yet because of the short time frame and the fact that each event that happens is clearly linked to what has happened before, it never felt overly disjointed. The problem is mostly that this show remains an interesting walk through the events on the island (and I have no idea about the accuracy or credibility of this story nor do I have much desire to look it up) but it isn’t making me really care all that much about the characters themselves. The characters remain just a vehicle for moving events along and each one is pretty forgettable in their own way.

Angolmois Episode 10 - Jinzaburo

That doesn’t stop there being some very cool moments in this story. The fight between Shiraishi  and Jinzaburo is so short and yet there’s a fair brutal efficiency. I like that they don’t feel the need to drag out the duel just for the sake of spectacle. This fight is impressive not because of the ongoing trading of blows or any particularly flashy move. It’s impressive because both characters are experts at what they do and they put their best into it from the first blow (no pulling out a super secret move ten hours into the fight). And that kind of plays into what works about this show. For the most part is is relatively believable even if potentially some of the individual feats are a little exaggerated for entertainment’s sake (and I’m not huge on stories needing to be grounded in reality, but with the way this one has been set up as more of a historical kind of thing, it actually works in the show’s best interest not to get too crazy).

However, I do need to look at the omens in this episode as we realise that the Magistrate is perfectly happy to lie to his own people if need be. He was also perfectly happy to stay with no plan and die so I’m not sure if he’s really such a great leader after all unless his people are equally fatalistic and don’t much care about maximising survival. What makes this slightly more tragic is that this is perhaps the best display of characterisation we’ve had since Teruhi got really angry at the Mongols for killing her whole family.

Angolmois Episode 10 - The Exiles

Finally, the episode comes to a close with the Mongols approaching the castle from land and sea and the Japanese are surrounded. Just to be sure we realise that the situation is now officially hopeless we flash to the guy who promised reinforcements essentially being told by his father that, nope, we aren’t sending any. This is responded to by the guy with one of the worse voice performances this show has so far delivered and the animation didn’t do a much better job of making me feel his pain.

So episode 10 is a mixed bag of fairly interesting and competent moments and some moments that remind me why this show keeps just straddling the line between the anime I’m really interested in this season and the anime I’m just kind of watching.

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